LOADING...

























SHIPS AND BOATS IN MINIATURE
2002 / FEBRUARY

Wooden boats of all sizes; rowing boats and fishing boats, an Istanbul steam ferry and a British-made tug. What they have in common is that they were all made by the same person, none of them go to sea, and they are small. That is because they are models, the result of months and years of painstaking work. Originals that have long since disappeared live on in these scale replicas of Istanbul's ships and boats. For anyone interested in Istanbul's maritime history they are a fascinating source of information.
The man who made them is Mehmet Özkasim, who spent years with boats before beginning to construct models of them. He has lived in Istanbul since he was one year old and is now 76. For half of his life he lived on the Bosphorus, which he has sailed in boats of every kind, gone fishing in them and out rowing.

PAGE 1/6


























SHIPS AND BOATS IN MINIATURE
2002 / FEBRUARY

'In those days boat owners used to compete to see whose was the best,' he says. 'I love the sea and boats. I was in the timber trade, and in the course of my job I got to know all the boat builders and learnt the finer details of boat building. I began to make models, and the more I made the more I loved doing it.'
Mehmet Özkasim does not just make models that look like the originals, but uses the identical materials. If the keel of a real alamana (a kind of fishing smack) was made of oak and the ribs of ash, so are those of his models. Oak, beech, ash and pitch pine are the timbers used in boat building. 'These woods were used by builders for specific reasons,' he explains. 'Ash, for instance, is extremely strong. It does not break easily and stretches. Fir and linden, on the other hand, snap immediately. Builders have tried all kinds of woods and arrived at the most suitable.'

PAGE 2/6


























SHIPS AND BOATS IN MINIATURE
2002 / FEBRUARY
Özkasim makes every part of the boats himself, buying nothing ready-made. He carves the timbers, and makes the metal sections from brass, soldering or riveting them together.
The model that he treasures most is the alamana. All of these boats had disappeared when Özkasim began a search which lasted years for an original on which to base his model. In the early 1980s he came across photographs of an alamana in the boathouse of a mansion in Kanlica published in a book by Çelik Gülersoy. He rushed off to Kanlica to find the boat, but it was no longer there. Three or four years passed fruitlessly. No one he asked knew where it was. Then at last he found someone who remembered the boat in the photographs. But tragically the boathouse had been demolished the previous winter and the boat inside broken up and burnt.
PAGE 3/6


























SHIPS AND BOATS IN MINIATURE
2002 / FEBRUARY

Mehmet Özkasim was left with only the photographs, but he was not deterred. He sought out master boat builders in Ayvansaray, a centre of wooden boat building on the Golden Horn, and armed with the details he needed drew his design and built the model.
Until the 1970s Istanbul's fishermen continued to use the traditional alamana, which was 13-14 m in length and 2.5 m wide. Then boats with diesel engines and sheet metal hulls took over. Halis and Hüseyin Turgut, two brothers and boat builders of Ayvansaray, were the last to make an alamana. Other types of boats in Özkasim's collection which are no longer being built are the mavna (a type of lighter), the çektirme (a wooden cargo vessel), taka (a small Black Sea cargo vessel) and yalı sandalı (a type of rowing boat used on the Bosphorus).

PAGE 4/6


























SHIPS AND BOATS IN MINIATURE
2002 / FEBRUARY
Özkasim takes one to one and a half years to build a single model. Some of the boats in his collection have won awards. His alamana won a bronze medal at the European championship held at Constanza in Romania by the International Model Shipbuilders Association, Naviga, in 1995. In fact the jury awarded his model the highest points, but 20 points were deducted becauses he had not taken the plans with him for fear that they might be stolen, so relegating him to third place with 80 points. His model shipyard won a gold medal in the composition section of the same competition. In 1978 he won three first prizes at the exhibition of model ships organised at the Galatasaray Gallery of Yapi Kredi Bankasi, and a second prize in 1980. His models have been shown in sixteen exhibitions of model ships, and always attracted admiration.
PAGE 5/6
 


























SHIPS AND BOATS IN MINIATURE
2002 / FEBRUARY

Since he never sells any of his models, he has accumulated a large collection, and regrets not having a gallery where he could put them on permanent show. However, thanks to a website set up by a friend at least it is possible to view them on the Internet.

* Erdem Kabadayi is a freelance writer.

PAGE 6/6
 

























Previous Next